Getting It Dunn In New York
by Mike Ashmore
BRONX, NY — Mike Dunn started his season as one of the pitchers coming out of the Double-A Trenton Thunder’s bullpen. He ended it wearing Yankee pinstripes, called up by the team on the first day of September.
While the southpaw wasn’t on the postseason roster, he will still earn a World Series ring for his efforts. Given the lack of depth of left-handed relief pitching in the organization and Dunn’s ability to blow the ball past the opposition, it’s not out of the question to think that he could play a much bigger role the next time the Yankees play in the postseason.
During his call-up to the Bronx, the Democrat had the opportunity to sit down with the friendly New Mexico native and ask him about the experience.
Hunterdon County Democrat: What has the experience up in the big leagues been like so far?
Mike Dunn: “It’s been amazing. You know, it’s just been good to get back up with these guys. I spent some time with them in big league spring training, and when I got up here, they all welcomed me and I felt like I belonged up here. Everyone was excited to see me, so it was good.”
HCD: Realistically, did you think this was going to happen for you this year?
Dunn: “I thought I would get a September call-up, but September 1st? Realistically, I didn’t. I thought that once the Triple-A season was over, I’d get to come up for a little bit. So I was really surprised when I got the call on the 1st.”
HCD: So you go from pitching in front of four or five thousand people in Double-A to crowds of 50,000 people here in the big leagues. From that sense, what kind of an adjustment is that?
Dunn: “My first outing, I was real nervous. They all said I was going to be nervous and to just try to control it. It’s the same game everywhere you go, even from Double-A to Triple-A and Triple-A to here. My first couple outings in Triple-A were a little rough, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m in Triple-A now,’ you know. But you’ve got to just think of it as the same game, and you block out the crowds and stuff like that. Other than, it’s the same game. You’ve just got to pitch.”
HCD: Outside of being nervous, what do you remember about that first outing?
Dunn: “It all went by very fast. I walked three guys, two of them being left-handed, so I was pretty upset about it. Everyone was like, “Did you have fun out there?’ Not really. I was disappointed in myself and the way I handled things. But I look back at it now, and it was exciting. It’s amazing to see how amped up your body can be, and to not really realize it until after the fact.”
HCD: How are you looking at this opportunity you’ve received here? As a chance to get your feet wet this year? A chance to audition for a spot in 2010?
Dunn: “I’m just looking at it as I’m just going to go out there and pitch whenever they ask and go out there and try to do my best and show them what I’ve got. I’m just kind of taking it game by game and pitch by pitch and show them what I’ve got.”
HCD: For the tail end of 2008 and the first half of this year, you were in Trenton. What was your experience like there?
Dunn: “I loved it down there. It’s disappointing that they didn’t make the playoffs this year. The group of guys we had last year and at the beginning of this year were a lot of fun, and I had a blast while I was there. I learned a lot while I was there, so it was a good level to be at.”
HCD: While you were with the Thunder and even with Scranton, you would get used every two or three days. With the big league call-up and the amount of guys they have here, that’s obviously not the case. Is it tough to get used to a role like that?
Dunn: “Maybe a little bit. You’ve just got to keep your arm loose. I learned a couple tricks here and there to keep my arm in shape with having a lot of days off, and how to try to stay sharp without pitching in a game. It’s kind of tough, but while you’re up here, you don’t even really think about it.”
HCD: I’m sure this has all been a whirlwind for you, but have you had the chance to sit back and kind of look at the ride this has been over the past few years? You went from being drafted as an outfielder and spending your first few years in the minors doing that to pitching off the rubber at the new Yankee Stadium…
Dunn: “Every year, I kind of look back at those first couple years of hitting and not pitching, and it’s frustrating to myself knowing that I could have probably pitched right out of the gate and I blew a year and a half of hitting. But like a lot of people say, I needed that opportunity. I needed to go out and do that, and it probably helped me out in the long run. But looking back at that, I look back at it every year, thinking about how much fun I had as an outfielder and how much fun I’m having as a pitcher.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com